When You’re Homeless Small Things Do Matter

Posted: August 24, 2009 in Health, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Housing

Late last week, I ended up with some sort of "stomach flu."

There was the nausea; the vomiting; fever and so forth. As you can imagine, I wasn’t feeling all that well.

The usual advice folks give under such circumstances is for the person to get plenty of rest and sleep – and, be sure to stay hydrated.

And, of course, because I wanted to get better as soon as possible, I followed the conventional wisdom.  

Between naps, I couldn’t help but think about those folks who are homeless and find themselves catching a "stomach flu."

For the most part, the homeless do not have the same luxury of being able to "sleep it off" as the rest of us.

They might be able to sign up for a shelter bed for the night. However, come morning – feeling better or not – they are required to get out of bed and be off shelter property at a certain time. They can’t sleep in and allow their bodies the rest it needs to recuperate.

During the few days I was under the weather, I was spared the indignity of having to find a bathroom when the nausea flared up. I just simply crawled out of bed and headed for the bathroom. I didn’t even have to dress.

Afterward, I had the ability to fill a glass with water and rinse out my mouth.

A homeless person suffering the same malady would’ve had to find a public bathroom. Or perhaps even an alleyway somewhere.

If they wanted to rinse out their mouth, they would’ve had to have either a bottle of water already with them, or go about trying to find a water fountain. And if they couldn’t, they would just have to endure the "aftertaste."

With me, all I had to do was walk back to my bed and crawl back under the comforters.

A homeless person wouldn’t have had the same option.

They would have had to either keep moving, or find some public place where they could sit and rest. Sleep probably would not have been an readily available option during the day.

Then, of course, feeling hot one moment and cold and clammy the next…

I had the luxury of being able to pull the comforter tightly around me, or fold it back as needed.

I also had access to towels to keep drying the perspiration from my body, then use a wash towel to rinse myself with.

In addition, during those moments when I was awake, I could walk over to a comfortable chair and sit. Then, when I felt the need to, crawl right back into bed.

A homeless person, on the other hand, would have to go through their day (and perhaps their night) in the same clothing that they’d been wearing the day before – or maybe even for a number of days before.

My fever completely "broke" around 3 AM yesterday morning. But, I felt completely spent.

Because I have a roof over my head, I can get the rest my body needs to heal itself in a reasonable period of time. And, while getting sick is never a pleasant thing, having housing when you’re ill, allows me to better cope with it.

In contrast, a homeless person who gets sick is forced to keep moving. They have no choice in the matter.

All of the things those of us who are housed take for granted, are the very things which a homeless person lacks access to.

To the rest of us, those things may seem small and inconsequential.

But, I wonder just how unimportant those things would be to a housed person who suddenly finds themselves homeless?

  1. Gary B says:

    Excellent site, keep up the good work.

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